Sunday, 13 December 2015

Waiting in Advent 2015 with
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (15)

The chapel and the entrance to the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist on Saint John Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

This morning [13 December 2015], we wake to the Third Sunday of Advent, and this morning we light the third candle on the Advent Wreath, the pink or rose candle representing Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel reading (Luke 3: 7-18) gives Saint Luke’s account of the ministry of Saint John the Baptist and his expctations and hopes for the arrival of Christ.

This Sunday takes the name ‘Gaudete Sunday’ from the Latin word Gaude, “Rejoice,” the first word in the traditional introit for this morning:

Rejoice in the Lord always.
Again I say, rejoice;
let your forbearance be known to all,
for the Lord is near at hand;
have no anxiety about anything,
but in all things, by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving,
let your requests be known to God.


The spirit of the Liturgy all through Advent is one of expectation and preparation for the Christmas feast, as well as for the second coming of Christ. But on Gaudete Sunday, the penitential exercises suitable to the spirit of Advent are suspended, symbolising that joy and gladness in the promised redemption that should never be absent from our hearts.

On the middle or third Sunday of Advent – corresponding to Laetare or Mid-Lent Sunday – the organ and flowers, which had been forbidden during the rest of the season, were permitted once again. Rose-coloured vestments were allowed instead of purple, the deacon and sub-deacon reassumed the dalmatic and tunicle, and cardinals wore rose-colour instead of purple.

Gaudete Sunday is also marked by a new Invitatory: the Church no longer invites us to prepare to greet “the Lord who is to come,” but calls us to worship and hail with joy “the Lord who is now nigh and close at hand” – a theme that is reflected in the Collect and Post-Communion Prayer for this day in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland, along with recalling Saint John the Baptist, another tradition of Gaudete Sunday.

I am working my way through my own Advent Calendar this season, and I invite you to join me each morning for a few, brief moments in reflecting on the meaning of Advent through the words of the great German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).

Reflecting on the significance of Saint John the Baptist in the season of Advent, Bonhoeffer once wrote:

“The message of Advent becomes a disturbing penitential sermon for us and this is as it must be. Before Jesus stands John the Baptist, before Christmas stands Advent. It is only through repentance that we come to the fulfilment of Christmas” (Bonhoeffer, DBW 10:588).

Father Irenaeus, a monk in the Monastery of Saint Macarius in Wadi Natrun, shows the crypt of Saint John the Baptist below the northern wall of the monastery church in the Western Desert of Egypt (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary): Zephaniah 3: 14-20; The Canticle ‘Song of Isaiah’ or Psalm 146: 4-10; Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 3: 7-18.

The Collect of the Third Sunday of Advent:

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Payer:

Father,
we give you thanks for these heavenly gifts.
Kindle us with the fire of your Spirit
that when Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.

The Advent Wreath in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin ... the pink or rose candle represents Saint John the Baptist and is lit this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

No comments: